NORMAN — For the past few months, 20 men have been training to become Norman firefighters, and learning how to put out fires is only one of many things they train to do.
Training for the recruits began Sept. 12, and the group will graduate March 13.
Over the six-month course, they learn about vehicle extrication, or using the jaws of life to cut people out of cars, how to handle swift water situations; how to rescue people from up high, down low, confined spaces and open spaces; how to respond to medical calls and more.
“Firefighters don’t just fight fires,” Norman Deputy Fire Chief Jim Bailey said.
The recruits are prepared to start working as soon as Day One after training, said Keith Nelson, assistant chief of training.
“They’re ready to go when they graduate,” he said.
But before they even get a chance to train, they have to go through a long process to be accepted first.
Nelson said applicants must have 30 hours of college credit, have their Emergency Medical Training basics, go through the application process and take written and physical agility tests.
Nelson said the written and agility tests usually weed out a lot of the applicants.
After all of that comes the interview portion. The first round of interviews is with the Frontline Captain Interview Board, which makes recommendations from the remaining group of applicants. Then those individuals are interviewed by the Chief’s Interview Board.
“You have to jump through a lot of hoops to get this job,” Nelson said.
However, this year’s group is the biggest Norman has ever had he said. They can train as few as six people at a time, and before this year, the most they had trained was around 15.
Feedback from recruits: “The most challenging thing (about training) is that there’s a lot to learn, there’s a lot of info,” firefighter recruit Grant McDanel said. “It’s not just spraying water on a fire, but I enjoy the challenge.”
McDanel was born and raised in Norman and always grew up respecting firefighters and the job they did. He said as a child, he looked up to them and they have always set a good example for kids.
“I want to serve people and serve the community I grew up in,” he said.
Firefighter recruit Noel Mohrmann also said he wanted to find a way to give back to the community. Mohrmann said he’s looking forward to being part of a fire department, getting to know all of the guys and being part of a “brotherhood.”
Another recruit, Dylan Terhune, also said he was looking forward to meeting all of the guys he’ll be spending a lot of time with.
“My favorite thing has been building relationships with other firefighters in my class and firefighters in the department,” Terhune said.
Terhune also looks forward to the excitement that comes along with the job and the opportunity to help people.
Recruit Matt Brown had several reasons for wanting to become a firefighter: the teamwork aspect, the brotherhood, the adrenaline rush and the strategy of fire service.
When the recruits were going through live burn evolution training, Brown said he saw a good mix of all of the reasons why he signed up for the job.
“Everyone was excited. It helped bring everyone together and everyone was ready to go,” Brown said.
Station 9 update: The new recruits will be filling the remaining 15 positions that were added when the half-cent Public Safety Sales Tax (PSST) was passed by Norman voters in 2008. Thirty firefighter positions were added when the sales tax passed. The other 15 positions were filled when Station 8 opened in 2011.
Station 8 also was part of the PSST. The tax funded the construction of two new stations, Station 8 on the west side of town and Station 9 on the east.
Station 9, at 3001 E. Alameda St. is expected to be completed this spring. It will cost about $3,795,000 and will have 15,149 square feet.
Work has been going somewhat slow on the new station because of winter weather. Pointing to a partially constructed part of the station, Bailey said the brick-binding mortar will not adhere correctly when temperatures dip below 40 degrees.
Both stations 8 and 9 are LEED-certified. According to the U.S. Green Building Council, a LEED structure is built using strategies aimed at achieving high performance in key areas of human and environmental health, including sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.
By building the fire station this way, they will be able to keep a lot of waste from being piled up into a landfill. In addition, it also will have the only geothermal heating and cooling system, helping with energy efficiency.
Station 9 will be the largest station in the city. It is designed to house two fire engine companies and will include facilities such as a kitchen, a day room, a sleeping area, a locker room, a weight training room and a training area.